During our stay in Ukraine, our delegation of IVS networks (CCIVS, SCI and Alliance), guided by Irina Bodnar from Alternative-V, was received by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine (Yes! Ukraine has a ministry for youth, which talks about the importance given to Youth at this very moment of their history).
We were received by the Vice-Minister, Mr. Sergey Mytrofanskyy, who was joined by the Director on Youth Policies (Ms.Iryna Bieliaieva). And with them, from the National Youth Council of Ukraine there were the President (Andrew Kolobov) and the General Secretary (Yana Konotopenko).
Honestly, one of the things that most surprised me of that visit was how much comfortable (homy) the NGO representatives were sitting at that table. As if they had spent hundreds of hours there. This was confirmed later by -our- Iryna, who told us that they meet very frequently with the Vice-Minister. A good sign, in any case, that youth representatives have someone in the ministry open to regular communication.
Noted that, in our conversation with Mr. Mytrofanskyy and Ms Bieliaieva we had an interesting insight about the situation of youth in Ukraine, their main challenges, and the policies of the ministry. The vice-minister expressed his main concerns as youth being in war, those who will return with severe damages, and also those who make part of that 1’5 million Internal Displaced People.
Here you will see a short introduction to Ms.Bielaieiva, director of Youth and Sports[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1NBVBe2jOE&w=560&h=315]
When it was time to talk of future cooperations, Mr. Mytrofanskyy asked whether IVS projects could be organised for the rehabilitation and cure of those young people who suffered injuries and post-belic traumas. Besides telling that this is not among IVS organisations’ specialities, we took note of the demand. On the other hand we expressed our vision that the cooperation we are willing to develop is that one that tries to open bridges of dialogue and cooperation between young people and youth organisations in the region, and specially in Ukraine, its territories and Russia.
Regarding this aspect, the vice-minister was respectful but at several points of the conversation he showed somehow skeptical to the
possibility to open such dialogues in this conflict period. Time for us to insist that civil society always has a chance to develop a different role, a different diplomacy, and to tell it from experience: we could remind that CCIVS was the only actor that never stopped East-West cooperation during the Cold War, keeping a permanent cooperation and solidarity alive while other political relationships were frozen or in open conflict.
Another interesting point of the conversation was to discover that volunteering has become a major trend in Ukraine nowadays, with million of young people volunteering. This vision was confirmed afterwards in other visits (like the one to the Center for Civil Liberties), underlining the growing interest in society to participate and make part of associations and human rights defense; however the map was completed by Mr. Mytrofanskyy with another datum. An important number of such volunteering is dedicated to the support to the Ukranian army, raising funds for them, etc. Beyond any understanding of the difficulties that a society lives in a war, it is needed to say from our side that we can never consider such model within a scheme of volunteering; what we could do then was to clarify that our volunteering does not go in such direction, neither our approach, our efforts, our vision. We are peace and human rights actors.
However we also found a common interest in the possibility to organise volunteering opportunities with young displaced people, after talking about how much after a while if the situation is not taken care since the beginning, there is a high risk of marginalisation and social exclusion for young people who already suffered the drama of such displacement. IVS organisations in Ukraine could develop such opportunities, and the international networks support and promote them; as well as organise seminars about the topic, or facilitating volunteering opportunities for these youngsters.
Unfortunately, during or after our meeting, we didn’t find the opportunity to have a long exchange with the National Youth Council representatives. However we left the possibility open for future cooperations.
For such future dialogue, we leave you with one of our short videos, now with Andrey Kolobov, the UNYC present chairman.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwZjmIgyW00&w=560&h=315]
Andrey Kolobov reflects about two main subjects which will lead me to my final reflections: First, Andriy launches the question on how to get young people involved to really change society as many people dreamt during the Euro-Maidan, launching real participation, confronting corruption in the institutions, injustice? This is a subject that may go across the borders… Are we assuming this question also all over Europe?
And the second, there is in his words the shade of a mistrust regarding a possible cooperation with youth structures in Russia. Are we ready in our youth associations and networks in Europe not to follow such shade, but to build conditions so that a real cooperation among youth organisations can become a sparkle of hope and trust in Ukraine and Russia? Are we ready to support that and promote such cooperation?